Jan 31, 2019

Life at -53 Degrees

Yesterday morning, the windchill at our house was about 53 degrees below zero. We live in a very nice refurbished old home in one of the original neighborhoods of Duluth, Minnesota, one of the coldest urban areas in the lower US.

I have lived most of my life in this climate. I remember getting bragging rights as a grade-schooler because we were in school with air temps in the thirties below zero.

At these temperatures, anything outside can be difficult. Putting out the garbage is its own chore. There are safety concerns, too. If you find yourself accidentally locked outside picking up the paper in your boxers, embarrassment aside, you only have minutes to get yourself into a neighbor's house.

A few years ago a local young woman died from hypothermia very close to her home. Inebriated, her friends dropped her off after a late-night party and drove away before she got inside.

So yesterday I took my own extreme measures to get to work. I wore my silk long underwear and flannel lined jeans, a warm Henley and a wool vest. Wool socks and winter boots are nonnegotiables in this weather.

I ran my vehicle for several minutes before leaving. Finally, I put on my ski jacket and mittens, grabbed a beanie and facemask, and headed out.

Vehicles do not like cold weather. Left outside, any vehicle, old or new, may or may not start at these temperatures. They require gasoline to vaporize, and that's a challenge in the cold. The best insurance that a car operates in extreme cold is to check the battery in the fall and check tire pressure before the cold arrives.

In a garage, almost any vehicle will start at almost any temperature. Windchills affect vehicles as they do people, and protection from wind is a big advantage. I initially keep my speeds low, but once warm, cars run fine.

I made it to work and soon realized that like many aspects to our lives, cold is another issue to deal with. But even at -53, once I accept my extreme cold routine, I can get through my life fine with about the same discomfort as walking in a cold rain.

When I was a kid, I knew nothing else and it never occurred to me that you could spend a winter without winter jackets and Sorels. Today it's -29 and, yes, I'm getting used to it.

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